Sunnier Side of the Office

Axios Raises $20 Million for Newsroom Expansion, Product Development

It may be less than a year old, but media startup Axios is already considered a bright spot in an otherwise difficult media landscape. Last week, the startup said it raised another $20 million in funding to help expand coverage areas, support product development and expand its capacity for data analysis.

Axios, launched in January by Politico alumni Jim VandeHei and Roy Schwartz, aims to reach executives with a mix of business and politics news. VandeHei said at launch that much of digital media is “broken” and that banner ads and long-form branded content can be a challenge to monetize in the long run. Instead, Axios focuses on short-form native ads appearing alongside bite-size bits of hard news and analysis.

The latest round of funding for Axios comes as both traditional and digital media companies are working to plot growth in a relatively uncertain environment. Last week, in particular, had a flurry of reported media deals and revenue challenges. Digiday has a compelling story today about the digital media world, calling much of last week’s news a “pivot to reality” after years of lofty valuations.

Facebook Launches App for Creators and Influencers

As the influencer space continues to grow, Facebook is rolling out a new app to help creators manage their content and connect with followers. The app called the Facebook Creator App, “will give internet stars a place to create and edit videos, film live, message with followers and track stats about their videos,” according to Ad Age.

More from Ad Age: “Fidji Simo, Facebook’s director of product, wrote in a blog post that she had been meeting with creators like YouTube personality Markian Benhamou and Jay Mendoza, a Facebook comedy creator. ‘While they have very diverse needs and goals, they all shared how important it is for them to have tools to nurture their community,’ Simo said.”

YouTube and Ticketmaster Team up to Help Connect Artists and Fans

By Katie McKinley

YouTube and Ticketmaster have partnered to bring music fans everything they love in one place: YouTubers can now purchase tickets to upcoming concerts as they watch music videos both within desktop and mobile environments.

According to a YouTube blog post, “YouTube’s massive fan base paired with Ticketmaster’s global roster of concerts and security of verified tickets means we can easily connect a fan’s discovery of music on YouTube to their ability to purchase concert tickets.”

The integration is a natural fit for YouTube since music videos are consistently part of the most played content on the platform, which has over 1.5 billion monthly visitors.

Ticketmaster is also integrated with Spotify and Facebook to drive ticket sales, so while this is not an exclusive partnership for YouTube, it will be a key way for YouTube to become an even larger force within the music category.

The new feature is available now for artists who have upcoming shows in North America, but will eventually expand worldwide.

This Week in Social: Twitter Confirms Tweetstorm Feature Coming

By Melissa Santiago

Twitter has confirmed rumors that it is indeed testing a “Tweetstorm” feature. What exactly is a Tweetstorm? Merriam Webster—yes, a legitimate dictionary defines Twitter terms—describes it as, “a series of related tweets posted by a Twitter user in quick succession.” Tweetstorm tweets usually begin with a number so readers can keep up with the sequence.

Twitter has not given an official release date for the feature but did confirm to TechCrunch that it’s testing the feature with a few users.

Twitter often creates features based on how their platform is being used natively. Allowing users to reply to Tweets with @username and the use of hashtags were behaviors started by the community that have grown into vital pieces of how people use the platform. Unless you’re one of the lucky few selected to test the feature, you’ll still need to carefully begin each submission to your Tweetstorm with 1/3, 2/3, 3/3 and keep count.


Sunnier Side of the Office

Snapchat Promises Investor-Friendly Redesign to Attract Older People

Snapchat said it’s testing what could be its biggest product overhaul to date — a redesigned app that’s meant to be easier to use. CEO Evan Spiegel announced the plans in Snapchat’s third-quarter earnings report, which showed slower user growth than expected. Snapchat’s user base grew only 3% last quarter to 178 million daily active users.

What that redesign will look like remains to be seen, but it’s clear the company feels it needs to do something substantial to grow its user base, and that means bringing in new users outside its young cohort.

According to Ad Age, “Snapchat reaches 70 percent of 13- to 34-year-olds in the U.S., and other developed countries, but it wants to appeal to an older more global crowd, non-digital natives who weren’t born with high-speed wireless connections piped into the womb.”

Facebook Refunds Advertisers for Mobile Video Ads Played Out of View

Last week, Facebook said it informed advertisers that it discovered two new measurement errors involving mobile videos, including video ads, that played while out of view and resulted in Facebook incorrectly charging advertisers, according to Marketingland.

These errors are said to be significantly smaller than others discovered by Facebook in recent months, and they’re not alone: Google and Twitter have also made measurement errors recently, leading to them overcharging advertisers as well. While these issues get fixed upon discovery, it’s an issue because the more these platforms make measurement errors, the more likely it is that advertisers’ skepticism of the automated digital ecosystem will continue to grow, potentially affecting how they allocate their budgets.

For its part, Facebook is taking steps to ensure these things happen less. It opened its ad metrics to an audit by the Media Rating Council. It also expanded the number of third-party companies that can verify its ad measurements. But while third-party verification can help build trust, advertisers still want to be able to trust the platforms’ first-party measurement tools.

For a very detailed look at the Facebook measurement issues that have happened in the last year, see Marketingland’s itemized list.

eMarketer Report: U.S. E-commerce Sales 2017, and Why Marketers Should Be Paying Attention

By Ben Shapiro

Late last month, eMarketer released its 2017 US E-commerce Sales report. Focusing primarily on the top 10 retailers ranked by e-commerce sales, it examines “the trends that put these companies ahead of the pack, as well as some of the issues that could hold them back.”

Learning the ins and outs of e-commerce advertising platforms and building e-commerce-specific messaging and media strategies is necessary for all brands. Brands who move first will have a leg up in reaching a hugely valuable group of consumers.

Below are some highlights from the ten-page report, which can be found in full here.

Amazon stays on top: According to eMarketer’s projections (and anyone with a pair of eyeballs), Amazon remains the undisputed e-commerce leader. Responsible for 3.06% of total retail sales–ecommerce or otherwise–Amazon projects to hold almost 4% of these transactions in 2017. That’s almost 6.5 times more than eBay, Amazon’s closest competitor in the e-commerce space. Marketers will need to recognize the importance of and build a strategy for advertising across Amazon’s various platforms.

Mergers and acquisitions: In order to compete with Amazon, many of its competitors turned to acquiring or partnering with startups and established retailers. After purchasing Jet.com in September 2016, Walmart expanded its digital expertise this year with the acquisition of Modcloth, Moosejaw, and Bonobos in 2017.

Room for growth: The top 10 U.S. e-commerce companies represent less than 6% of the total retail market, leaving significant room for growth as more retail categories move online.

This Week in Social: Used ’96 Honda For Sale

By Melissa Santiago

It’s not easy selling a 22-year-old car with 141,000 miles on it. Max Lanman, who wanted to help his girlfriend Carrie sell her ’96 Honda Accord, knew he could create a simple post on Craigslist and get a meager price for it. But he figured he might be able to fetch more money by harnessing the power of a viral video.

With the help of some friends and neighbors, he spent a few weeks creating a commercial and then posted it on Reddit. It went viral, garnering more than 4 million organic views in one week.

The car was listed on eBay and the bidding got up to a lofty $150,000. Alas, it was too good to be true: eBay saw the price of the item and took the listing down. He reposted the car on eBay a second time, only to have it taken down again.

Don’t feel too bad for Lanman, though. CarMax created a video offering him $20,000 for the car. Also in exchange for that $20,000, CarMax wants some of the items featured in the video, such as the jacket Carrie wore, a partially eaten sandwich, the Mexico mug (non-negotiable), and…her cat. You can watch that video here.


M/H SOUNDS: OCTOBER 2017

 

1 – Tom Petty “Some days are diamonds, and some days are rocks.”

2 – St. Vincent “The void is back and unblinking.” – Annie Clark

3 – Drake “I know they say the first love is the sweetest, but that first cut is the deepest.”- Drake, but also Sheryl Crow

4 – Alvvays Bands these days use v’s for u’s and v’s for w’s and basically millennials are killing the alphabet.

5 – Cherry Glazerr is an American rock band from Los Angeles, California.


Audi’s + M/H “Driver’s Test” Awarded Silver Clio

Audi has a decade-long partnership with Marvel which means Audi vehicles have taken part in epic on-screen action in Marvel films. Sony Pictures release of 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming presented a new and unique set of challenges for Audi and MUH-TAY-ZIK | HOF-FER. Primarily, how do we integrate the new 2018 A8 (still under media embargo at the time) with an underage superhero (the 15-year old Peter Parker)?

Our solution came from a cultural landmark that every American teenager experiences: the driver’s license test. This relatable, emotional, and universal moment was the perfect setting in which to introduce not only the A8 but our high school-aged hero as well. Starring Tom Holland (Peter Parker) and J.B. Smoove (the Instructor), the two and a half minute film “Driver’s Test” showed how the Intelligent Technology features of the new A8 helped Peter Parker receive a passing score on his driver’s test.

In the US promotional period, “Driver’s Test” videos garnered 120,852,495 views across US Social and Digital platforms and earned the greatest number of PR impressions (143,914,117) for any Audi partnership initiative in history. Now “Driver’s Test” can add a Silver Clio Winner to its impressive results.

We are delighted to share in the success of our efforts with great collaborative partners at Audi and our agency team who brought this to life.

Watch the video here.


Sunnier Side of the Office

Google, Facebook and Twitter Testify Before Congress

Last week executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter testified before members of Congress about Russian election interference on their platforms. (I’m a nerd so I watched these live.) Those companies earlier revealed that a Kremlin-linked entity bought ads on their platforms with the intent to sow discord and misinformation around the election and its aftermath last year. All three companies said last week that the ads the Russian entity purchased reached further than originally thought. Facebook, for example, revealed during the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Wednesday that the effort by the Russian troll farm Internet Research Agency reached 146 million people, with 20 million reached from ads on Instagram.

Lawmakers were ultimately frustrated, according to the New York Times, with how little progress is being made toward preventing foreign powers from meddling online in American elections. Some members of Congress also talked at length about the problem of organic content, as the ads purchased were meant to drive people to pages created by the Internet Research Agency, which then exposed people to countless organic posts about a variety of topics.

It should come as no surprise that Facebook’s earnings weren’t fazed by this, and if anything, it actually shows how wide and effective Facebook’s reach can be.

The hearings also gave us a view into the ads in question. See Ad Age’s rundown of the ads, which took just about every side of any hot-button issue, with the intention of fomenting discord.

Cheatsheet: What You Need to Know About Influencer Fraud

Influencers’ popularity continues to grow in popularity as Instagram amasses both more ad dollars and users. Influencer demand also continues to flourish as the opaque online ad buying system is under scrutiny, in part thanks to fraud. Marketers often see influencers as a media buy that has more certainty than a media buy bought through an ad exchange.

But the world of influencers is not without its own fraud. Digiday has a nice rundown of various forms of influencer fraud and how to spot it. Also up for debate in the article is where influencers disagree on what constitutes fraud.

Influencers, for instance, disagree on whether the formation of pods is actually fraud. Pods are a practice in which influencers band together to comment and like each other’s posts, ultimately gaming the Instagram algorithm by increasing engagement, although artificially.

 

Pinterest Users Start Thinking About Christmas in July

By Katharine Painter
Are you one of those people who starts thinking about Christmas before Halloween is even here? Well, you’re not alone. Pinterest just released their Holiday Insights report showing that Pinners start to plan for the holidays up to 5 months in advance.

Last year, there were more than 576 million holiday pins saved, up 20% year over year. The most popular content categories for holiday pins included home décor, food and drink, style, and beauty — all with multiple trends popping up throughout the holiday season. Here are a few tidbits:

  • The closer it gets to Christmas, the more specific and targeted searches get. For home decor, users start out by looking at general decoration ideas, but within a month or two before Christmas, they move into more niche searches like Christmas-themed bedroom décor lights.

  • Pinterest is finding that new food trends and international influences are changing the way people search for recipes. The new-found popularity of diets like paleo and gluten-free are helping newer, non-traditional recipes to become more common.

  • Food and drink searches have shifted from general baking ideas to brunch and breakfast ideas as Christmas approaches.

What does all of this mean for marketers? Holiday Pins should be promoted a few months in advance as Pinners start looking for inspiration early. Content should be relevant as Pinners are looking for non-traditional, trendy ideas for the holidays. Branded content should evolve from more general ideas to more specific, niche ideas as the holiday nears.

Check out the full webinar here!

This Week in Social: Animoji Karaoke

By Melissa Santiago

Last Friday Apple’s iPhone X was released. There is, unsurprisingly, no shortage of buzz about the X’s new tech-forward features. The most glowing mentions were for its cameras and brilliant edge-to-edge screen, while the most vilified feature is the infamous notch.

Another highly anticipated feature was its facial-recognition Technology, which unlocks the phone, but also allows for the creation of what Apple is calling Animoji—a hybrid between Snapchat face filters and giant animated emojis. As people began to set up and use their new iPhone X, it didn’t take long before they used their Anomoji to lip-sync their hearts out and shared the videos on Twitter & Instagram.

If you’re thinking of making your own, check out this Animoji rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody first. It’s going to be tough to top this one, but I have faith someone on Twitter with too much time on their hands can do it.


Netflix Strikes Licensing Deal

 

Reed Hastings wore a “Stranger Things” Christmas sweater during Netflix’s recent Q3 earnings call signaling the first big licensing deal for any of their shows. In 2015, he appeared on an earnings call wearing a BoJack Horseman sweater designed by MUH-TAY-ZIK HO-FER in 2014 for a holiday campaign. The sweater was never for sale and was used for internal promotional purposes, but shortly after Reed wore the BoJack sweater on the call, a few popped up on eBay for $445.

As luck would have it, John Matejczyk is wearing one of the sweaters today.


Sunnier Side Of The Office

Facebook Provided Targetable Political Segments for 2016 Election

BuzzFeed News released a document provided by Facebook to political advertisers in the 2016 election showing a targetable breakdown of the political segments of the U.S.

BuzzFeed reporter Alex Kantrowitz (and subscriber to this newsletter, hey Alex) writes, “Facebook carved the US electorate into 14 segments — from left-leaning “youthful urbanites” to a pro-NRA, pro-Tea Party group it bizarrely labeled as “the great outdoors.” It detailed their demographic information — including religion and race in some cases — and offered them to political advertisers via Facebook’s sales teams. For advertisers using Facebook’s self-serve platform, the segments could be reached by purchasing larger bundles ranging from “very liberal” to “very conservative.”

Facebook has made efforts to distance itself from playing a direct role in the election by saying it’s not a media company since, “itself doesn’t produce news content, it can’t be a media company.” This document shows there is an active role being played. And as you can see from this 60 Minutes episode, the Trump campaign actively took advantage of the tools at their disposal.

See the full Kantrowitz piece here.

 

YouTube TV Ads Incorporate Live Footage

YouTube TV ran a 2-minute ad that incorporated live content to promote their live TV product in game one of the World Series last week. Just before the game began, live pregame commentary from Fox announcers Joe Buck and John Smoltz morphed into the 2-minute pitch for YouTube TV. The 2-minute ad then featured Fox content available via YouTube TV.

Building live elements into ads is a growing trend. In Super Bowl LI in February, Tide ran an execution that was meant to seem live but was actually pre-recorded.

Check out the World Series Live YouTube TV ad at the top of this AdAge story.

 

This Week In Social: Google’s Emoji Meltdown

by Melissa Santiago

Emojis play a large role in most mobile and social media communication for individuals and brands. One emoji, in particular, is causing a bit of meltdown on Twitter: the cheeseburger.
According to The Verge, it’s “up to each company to decide how it wants to render the two buns, meat patty, and cheese; usually lettuce and tomato, too…” to determine what the emoji will look like on different operating systems. Most of operating system’s depictions of cheeseburger emoji are quite similar and they all have one thing in common—except for Google’s.

Google’s version depicted the melted cheese on the bottom bun under the burger and the internet is not happy about it. Amidst the controversy, Google CEO has responded via Twitter that he will, “drop everything” and address this grave misrepresentation of the cheeseburger.

Thankfully he is taking this seriously because nothing is as important as how fast food items are depicted via very small pictures in text message conversations between two people with Google phones.

 

 


Sunnier Side Of The Office

Megyn Kelly Takes on Bill O’Reilly Via Her NBC Show

In a rare move at the network level, current NBC and former Fox News host Megyn Kelly used her show to take on her former colleague, Bill O’Reilly.

Kelly’s comments came on the heels of a NYTimes report published Saturday, revealing that Mr. O’Reilly paid Lis Wiehl, a former Fox News legal analyst, $32 million to settle sexual harassment allegations — the largest of O’Reilly’s known payouts to date.

After referencing the $32 million sum, Ms. Kelly said, “That is a jaw-dropping figure.” Referring to Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson, she added: “O. J. Simpson was ordered to pay the Goldman and Brown families $33.5 million for the murders of Ron and Nicole. What on earth would justify that amount? What awfulness went on?”

Bill O’Reilly has positioned himself as the victim in all this, saying the allegations are false and nobody ever complained about his behavior throughout his career.

To that Kelly said “O’Reilly’s suggestion that no one ever complained about his behavior is false. I know because I complained.”

See Kelly’s piece here.

Get the NYTimes “The Daily” audio coverage along with backup info of the story here.

Barstool Gets ESPN Show. ESPN Cancels After One Episode

ESPN has canceled ‘Barstool Van Talk’ after one episode after it made its debut last Tuesday at 1 a.m. ET on ESPN2.

The show was an adaptation from Pardon My Take, which has stayed at the top of the podcast charts since its launch in February 2016.

ESPN was criticized by some when the show was announced due to Barstool’s “bro” content approach, which ESPN (a Disney company) does not want to associate with.

ESPN President John Skipper issued the following statement:

Effective immediately, I am canceling Barstool Van Talk. While we had approval on the content of the show, I erred in assuming we could distance our efforts from the Barstool site and its content. Apart from this decision, we appreciate the efforts of Big Cat and PFT Commenter. They delivered the show they promised.

The show did well in its first episode by averaging 88,000 viewers. The lead-in for the show drew 61,000 viewers and the lead-out had 39,000 viewers.

My speculation: ESPN’s decision comes down to their unwillingness to work with Barstool Founder and “El Prez” Dave Portnoy, the root of ESPN host Sam Ponder’s criticism.

See Barstool Van Talk episode 1 here.

Herbs, Spices, and Social Buzz

by Melissa Santiago

Last week, a Twitter user noticed something interesting about the KFC Twitter account. Apparently, they were following 6 men named Herb and each of the Spice Girls—11 herbs and spices.

According to KFC via Adweek, “Our vault was getting cleaned so I thought the best place to keep the secret recipe was on Twitter,” said Bentley McBentleson, digital marketing manager for KFC U.S. “‘No one’s going to look at who we’re following!’ I thought. Boy was I wrong. I’ve made a huge mistake.”

Their agency, Wieden+Kennedy, had a more transparent response: “We planted this on Twitter over a month ago…Sometimes you just have to put stuff out into the universe and cross your fingers that the internet will work its magic.”

Brands often rely on celebrities, athletes, influencers, and expensive ad buys to get gain social buzz. Most major social platforms have limited organic reach for brands, but the good news is there are creative ways for brands to make a cultural impact without Super Bowl ad-sized budgets.



Sunnier Side of the Office

Vox Media Rolls Out ‘Explainer’ Format to Brands

Vox Media announced a new division dedicated to creating its well-known explainer videos on behalf of brands.

Vox gained fame quickly when it launched in 2014 due to its simple walk-throughs for curious topics like Here’s what happens to your knuckles when you crack themThis plane could cross the Atlantic in 3.5 hours. Why did it fail? or The rise of ISIS explained in 6 minutes

Vox is now offering up the same format to brands and has a few pilot partners in SpotifyNFL Fantasy Football and Ben & Jerry’s.

Explainer Studio is growing quickly due to demand from advertisers, said Armando Turco, general manager for Vox Creative, the company’s branded content division.

“Branded content is a part of—if not the holistic solution for—a good majority of the deals that we do,” Mr. Turco said.

Vox Media, which includes sites like The Verge, Recode SB Nation, Eater, and others, says people spend an average of three minutes and 20 seconds on branded Explainer videos.

Oculus Announces $200 Headset

by Ben Shapiro

Oculus, Facebook’s VR subsidiary, announced last week the release of Oculus Go, “the first modern virtual reality headset that doesn’t require a powerful PC or a smartphone.” With a price tag of only $200, the Oculus Go represents Oculus’ first concerted effort to bring VR to the mainstream.

As shown by an IBB Consulting survey of nearly 3,200 U.S. online consumer adults in which only 16% of respondents expressed an interest in virtual reality, VR is far from the everyday consumer product that some of the media hype makes it out to be. Put this into the context of Mark Zuckerberg’s publicly stated goal of getting 1 billion people into VR in the near future and the already uphill battle to bring VR to the everyday consumer becomes even more apparent.

Oculus also launched the first global campaign to promote the VR headset, inviting consumers to “Step Into Rift” with a spot that highlights the immersive gaming experience the Oculus Rift offers.

Fast Food Twitter Jabs Heat Up

by Melissa Santiago

Wendy’s has received a lot of earned media lately—especially about chicken nuggets. A simple Tweet that they opted to interact with is now the most Retweeted Tweet in history unseating an Ellen DeGeneres Tweet from 2014. Wendy’s has also tried to start a Twitter beef by taking a jab at McDonald’s about frozen hamburger.

This time, Wendy’s is on the receiving end of Twitter snark.

To promote a new product that Wendy’s recently removed from their menu, Burger King decided to amplify the voice of those most vocal about the removal of spicy nuggets by putting paid media dollars behind the Tweets of people complaining to Wendy’s. Coupled with strategically placed billboards, Burger King managed to spice up the conversation about nuggets by using complaints towards Wendy’s to its own paid-media advantage.

See AdWeek article here.